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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College students aren't all that smart: IQ average falls to 102

The average college student has average intelligence, concludes a meta-analysis by Canadian researchers, writes Ross Pomeroy on Big Think. In 1939, when only 10 percent of Americans enrolled in college, the average IQ was 119. By 2022, it's down to 102, not significantly above the average of 100.

John Belushi as John "Bluto" Blutarsky in "Animal House" (1978)

“The decline in students’ IQ is a necessary consequence of increasing educational attainment over the last 80 years,” the researchers wrote. “Today, graduating from university is more common than completing high school in the 1940s.”

The “Flynn effect” -- a steady rise in IQs from 1940 onward -- has been well established, writes Pomeroy. However, "there are signs it may have reversed in the first two decades of the 21st century."

The "college for all" movement and easy access to student loans persuaded most high school graduates to give college a try. However, only 58 percent of students complete a degree within six years, Pomeroy notes. Students with lower IQs are more likely to drop out. "One influential study showed that for white American undergraduates with an IQ only slightly above average, their chance of graduating is essentially 50-50."

The researchers called for professors to "adjust curricula and academic standards" so average students can succeed. However, they warned that “employers can no longer rely on applicants with university degrees to be more capable or smarter than those without degrees.”

Some degrees will retain their value, especially those from selective universities. But a Fuzzy Studies degree from Regional State U will be even less impressive to employers. (I believe a gender studies degree signals: "Don't hire this person.")

In 2017, Education Testing Service "experts" estimated that physics (133), math (130), philosophy (129) and materials science (129) majors have the highest IQs. (I assume they're extrapolating from SAT scores.) I was an English major (120). Education majors average 110.

"A degree has become increasingly meaningless as more people attain it," writes Pomeroy.

"Last year, for the first time, the Wall Street Journal-NORC poll showed that 56% of Americans think attending college is not worth the cost," a significant change in 10 years. "Skepticism is strongest" among people of college age.

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